Young Packers receivers see opportunity to play
GREEN BAY--After seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers, James Jones signed as a free agent this offseason with the Oakland Raiders.
Some rookies might feel pressure with replacing a long-tenured player. Second-round draft pick Davante Adams sees an opportunity.
“Everybody was asking, ‘Are you replacing James?’” Adams said when he first got to Green Bay after being drafted in May.
“But in a sense anytime someone leaves and they bring in a new guy, you’re replacing” him.
“I’m not trying to replace anybody, try to be anybody else,” Adams said Wednesday. “I’m just trying to come in and do what (I’ve) got to do.”
Adams and the Packers host the Raiders in a preseason game Friday.
What Adams won’t be able to do this season is replace Jones’ veteran presence. Jones was a reliable and productive receiver in the Packers’ potent offense and a favorite of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Drafted in the third round in 2007, Jones played 104 games for Green Bay, including 47 starts. He had 310 catches and 37 touchdowns. He had a career-high 14 scores in 2012.
Jones also kept things light in the meeting room, but held himself to high standards, receiver Jordy Nelson said.
“I loved his presence in the locker room. I loved the way that he practiced,” Rodgers said. He’s a guy who you knew would go up and get the ball.”
Nelson and Randall Cobb now lead the receiving group. It’s up to guys such as Adams and third-year player Jarrett Boykin to help replace Jones’ production.
Boykin has an advantage of having stepped into the lineup last year when Randall Cobb got hurt, catching 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns. Receivers coach Edgar Bennett said the confidence level has carried over to this preseason, though Boykin knows he must prove himself again.
He does have a head start on Adams given his familiarity with the offense. Rodgers spoke of how the offense looks on paper “and then there’s the offense the way the first-team runs it.
“You have to be able to be non-robotic when you’re out there, have quick reactions, and see the game the way I do and the way our offense runs most efficiently,” Rodgers said.
Tempo is key. Rodgers, one of the game’s smartest quarterbacks, can dissect a defense and throw sharp passes into tight spots.
The learning curve can be tough, making the offseason and preseason crucial for younger players.
“It’s something that’s just reps and paying attention in meetings when Aaron might be correcting or (receivers coach Edgar Bennett) or one of us older guys might be correcting,” Nelson said. “You’re taking that mental note or writing it down. You can learn off of other people’s mistakes.”
Adams has the college pedigree that would seem to bode well for the NFL, having led the nation with 131 catches in Fresno State’s prolific offense. He set school career records with 233 receptions and 38 scores in just two seasons.
But gaining Rodgers’ confidence is another matter. The 2011 NFL MVP has high standards.
“Just making sure that it becomes second nature,” Adams said about what he needs to work on most. “Everything out there is just flowing and I don’t have to worry about thinking too much and I can just play.”